Democrats believe that climate change is real. All candidates present at the CNN Town Hall last week seemed genuinely committed to curbing global warming – but most of them are building their programs on click-bait solutions while distancing themselves from what science recommends.
There was no shortage of technicalities about how to face Big Oil and make clean water available to everyone. A great step in the right direction but is it enough to prove an evidence-based approach in tackling the climate crisis? Project Drawdown, the most extensive study done to date to identify and rank solutions to stop global warming, would beg to differ.
A sustainable future
In fact, food and agriculture along with women’s health and education tip the scale in favor of a more sustainable and healthy future and should be at the center of any serious climate program.
Not only were these topics downplayed in the name of pragmatism but responsibility has been transferred to consumer choices and education – and nothing could be less true.
Blaming consumers for their choices – especially after decades where politicians from both parties have been in favor of subsidizing animal agriculture, not regulating food labeling, and contracting big junk food companies to handle food in public schools and hospitals – shows ignorance of recent history, economics, science, and consumer psychology.
More than 75 percent of U.S. corn is used for animal feed and biofuels which makes the average midwest cornfield acre rank behind Bangladesh and Vietnam in terms of its potential to deliver food calories. What could have fed 14 people per acre is now providing calories for only three people per acre while rapidly depleting U.S. natural resources like water.
Cornfields occupy land the size of California and receive the most irrigation water of any American crop – while 87 percent of irrigated corn is grown in regions with high water stress.
Furthermore, according to the USDA, more than 65 percent of corn farms are over-applying chemical fertilizers, which ends up drastically polluting lakes, rivers, coastal oceans and water ecosystems. And that’s not even the whole story.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton said she had hot sauce in her bag and was accused of trying to appeal to black voters. Yesterday, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris made sure to reassure voters that no one is touching their cheeseburgers – in what is, in my opinion, an obvious attempt to avoid hurting their electability.
Unlike hot sauce, cheeseburgers are a threat to public health and the environment.
In addition to Cory Brooker who gets the urgency and need to switch to plant-based foods, Bernie Sanders was the only front-runner candidate at the CNN Town Hall to demonstrate an understanding of what’s at stake by acknowledging women’s reproductive rights and being open to tax red meat. This doesn’t mean that the goal would be to make Americans turn vegan overnight, but help reduce demand through prices and updated dietary guidelines.
The proportion of Americans who are ‘very worried’ about global warming has more than tripled since its lowest point in 2011. Seventy-three percent of Americans think global warming is happening, an increase of 10 percentage points since March 2015.
It is no longer enough to make a statement about the climate crisis just by vehemently acknowledging it. Building programs backing real solutions should be the only barometer and tackling the massive problems caused by animal agriculture.
A new vision for championing an innovative and sustainable food system to rebuild soils, lower greenhouse gas emissions, protect resources, promote a plant-centric diet, and produce nutritious fruits, nuts, and vegetables should become a priority to reshape public health and the environment for the better.
As Pete Buttigieg elegantly framed it last week at the Town Hall: “This is about faith.”
Whether it’s faith in God, in science, or in the right to be healthy and breathe fresh air, political leaders need to engage voters in the science of how we could win back our planet – and that means acknowledging the necessary shift to a plant-centric diet society.